The Take

The Take: Marilyn McCabe


Last night I dreamt of messy tabletops
which is what I woke to this morning: papers
pile on every surface, statements,
tax forms, receipts overflow a box
in the corner near the tangle of computer wire, and Christmas
cards I should have answered and an old bill for four
bucks I’ve long ignored. Where
do I file my credit card’s privacy notice,
and old phone numbers for friends whom
I no longer call? Or do I throw
them away? I never know.
How can one house fit
all this detritus of life plus
old sweaters and outdated suits,
boxes of boxes, bags of bags,
fading wrapping paper? I took
a load to the dump to dump on other’s
dump loads. How can the earth hold it all,
or is the whole orb buckling
and heaving from the lot of us, with
our fat heads and heavy arms,
our edifices and parking lots, our glossy
brochures? Is the Sahara bulging
slightly where no man walks, the Antarctic
like an exophthalmic eye?
Which newborn or office building,
which final Final Notice
will tip us finally, toss us all off,
as our misshapen planet wings
away into the ether with
a noise like doingoingoingoing?

Editor Statement 

Where and how to file all of our “stuff” — or to recycle what can be and throw the remainder away? That, it seems, is the question to be considered in our world drowning full of such unnecessary miscellaneous material, and McCabe’s poignant composition acknowledges this messy truth. I am especially struck by the speaker’s awkward admission that they “took / a load to the dump to dump on other’s / dump loads,” and the broader examination of how all our collective “discards” are modifying our planet in ways which we are not yet fully aware.

– Jonah Meyer, Poetry Editor 


Artist’s Statement 

“Discard” came out of my dismay about my  own “bag of bags” and overburdened recycling bin, the muchness of stuffness on one little planet, and my own part in it all. The final image came out of my many unsuccessful attempts using a pottery wheel: clumsily breaking through the clay with my blundering fingers, the clay flying free of the whirling wheel, much to my embarrassment. Less doingoingoing than splat. A lot of my work these days comes out of my inability to look away from the planet, both its beauty, and how we’ve, clumsily, screwed things up.

Marilyn McCabe 

By Marilyn McCabe

Marilyn McCabe’s poetry has won contests through AROHO, Word Works, Grayson Books, and NYS Council on the Arts. Collections of poems include Perpetual Motion and Glass Factory, and chapbooks Rugged Means of Grace and Being Many Seeds. Videopoems have appeared in festivals and galleries. She blogs about writing at